Thailand Senate Blocks Election Winner

news 17-Jul-2023 Asia

Thailand's Senate Blocks Election Winner

Thailand's progressive election winner, Pita, was not elected as the new prime minister in a parliamentary vote. The result could trigger larger demonstrations.


Protests Could Intensify

Thailand's Senate Blocks Election Winner. Progressive winner Pita Limjaroenrat did not receive the necessary majority in the first round of parliamentary voting to become the prime minister. He was 51 votes short of winning the election.


Out of 749 members of parliament, Pita only received 324 votes. 182 voted against the progressive 42-year-old, 199 abstained or were absent. Pita was the only candidate. Although his coalition has a majority of 312 seats in the lower house, the election of the new prime minister is decided by not only the 500 newly elected lower house members but also 249 senators who were appointed by the military after a coup in 2014 and have remained largely loyal to it. Only 13 senators voted for Pita.


Protests that could become more intense

It is expected that Pita will run for election again next Wednesday. He announced a new strategy to secure the necessary votes in the next round of voting. Observers have always considered Pita's chances of forming a government with the eight-party alliance led by his party, Move Forward, as low. Therefore, the coalition may also decide to nominate another candidate for the election next week, such as real estate tycoon Srettha Thavasin, the leading candidate of the second-largest opposition party, Pheu Thai.


The election of the prime minister could drag on for weeks or even months if the Senate continues to block the election of Pita or another opposition candidate.

Democracy activists criticize the Senate for ignoring the will of the people. Supporters of election winner Pita watched the vote on large screens outside the parliament. Many wore orange, the color of the Move Forward party. Hundreds already protested in front of the parliament in Bangkok yesterday evening. Now there are concerns that there could be significantly more protests on the streets of Bangkok.

Will Legal Accusations Lead to Political Ban?


However, Pita also faces additional challenges. Yesterday, the Thai Election Commission announced that it accuses Pita of violating electoral law and has referred the case to the Constitutional Court. The court could now order Pita to be relieved of his parliamentary duties until a verdict is reached. Pita is accused of owning shares in a defunct media company at the time of the election, which is prohibited in Thailand.


The "Bangkok Post" quoted Pita as saying, "The relevant media company has been closed for ages, and I only held the shares as the executor of my father's estate." In a second case, Harvard graduate Pita is accused of planning to overthrow the monarchy, based on his announcements to amend the law on lese-majeste.

Pita has repeatedly stated that he does not want to abolish the monarchy but only reform it to improve the relationship between the military and the population. If found guilty, he could face several years in prison and a political ban.

Hoping for an End to Conservative Power Structures


Similar legal accusations led to the predecessor party of Move Forward - Future Forward - being sidelined after the 2019 parliamentary elections. At that time, the Constitutional Court disqualified promising candidate Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who unexpectedly came in third place in the elections, and subsequently ordered the dissolution of the party. The decision prompted tens of thousands of young protesters to take to the streets.

Many people hope for an end to the existing conservative power structures. Since a coup in 2014, Thailand has been governed by former General Prayut Chan-o-cha. The 69-year-old announced his withdrawal from politics on Tuesday. However, he will remain in office temporarily until the new prime minister is elected.

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